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Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2000 Sep;1(6):1203-17.

Current treatment of sepsis and endotoxaemia.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Florence, Firenze, Italy.


This article reviews the new criteria for selecting the proper antimicrobial agent and dosage regimen for standard treatment of severe sepsis, with the intention of preventing septic shock. After introducing new concepts on the pathogenesis of sepsis and septic shock, the authors analyse the parameters of beta-lactam antibacterial activity, the antibiotic-induced release of bacterial endotoxin and the interrelationships between pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of antibiotics in the search for an optimum dosage regimen of antimicrobial mono- or polytherapy for severely ill septic patients admitted to the intensive care unit. The mortality rate resulting from severe bacterial sepsis, particularly that associated with shock, still approaches 50% in spite of appropriate antimicrobial therapy and optimum supportive care. Bacterial endotoxins that are part of the cell wall are one of the cofactors in the pathogenesis of sepsis and septic shock and are often induced by antimicrobial chemotherapy, even if administered rationally. Not all antimicrobial agents are equally capable of inducing septic shock; this is dependent on their mechanism of action rather than on the causative pathogen species. The quantity of endotoxin released depends on the drug dose and whether filaments or spheroplast formation predominate. Some antibiotics, such as carbapenems, ceftriaxone, cefepime, glycopeptides, aminoglycosides and quinolones, do not have the propensity to provoke septic shock because their rapid bacterial activity induces mainly spheroplast or fragile spheroplast-like bacterial forms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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